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The German city of Hamburg, officially named the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, is situated on land between the Elbe and Alster Rivers. Part of Hamburg's name is part of its history as as a member of the Hanseatic League, a medieval defensive confederation of merchant guilds and market towns in central and northwestern Europe. The first permanent settlement in what is now Hamburg. It was a fortified and moated castle called Hammaburg. It was built in approximately 825 AD per the orders of Emperor Charlemagne in order to defend the area against Viking and Slavic invasions.

Shortly after its founding, in 834, the castle's baptistery was designated the seat of Archbishop Ansgar who used the city as the home of his missions to bring Christianity to the Vikings and others in northern Europe. Throughout the Medieval period, the city was occupied and destroyed repeatedly. In 845, at a time when Hamburg had 500 or so residents, more than 600 Viking ships arrived and burned the fortress down. Over the next 300 years, each time the city was getting back on its feet, it was burned down again.

In 1189, in appreciation for Hamburg's support of Frederick's crusades, Roman Emperor Frederick I granted Hamburg the status of an Imperial Free City, the right to cut trees and to fish, and the right to tax-feee access to the lower Elbe and into the North Sea. In 1190, Denmark's Valdemar the Conqueror, known officially as Valdemar II, sacked and occupied Hamburg in 1201 and then again in 1214. In 1350 the Black Death killed more than 65% of the population. The city was ravaged yet again by fire in 1284. This time, all but a single house in Hamburg was destroyed.

The first constitution of Hamburg was established on August 10, 1410. Hamburg created a council made up of the Council of Sixty and twenty rights, including that no one would be arrested without a hearing, no war would be started without a hearing of Hamburg's citizens and disloyal public servants would be discharged.

The city embraced the German Reformation on May 15, 1529. The political system was reorganized. The senate now consisted of 24 aldermen, but no laws could be enacted. In 1531, the cathedral chapter was closed. It reopened as a Lutheran church in 1540. Catholics were stripped of their citizenship and many left. Those who remained were allowed to practice their faith.

Around the end of the Middle Ages, the Hanseatic League dissolved, and Hamburg created a prosperous economy for itself. In 1558, the stock market was founded, and in 1619, the Bank of Hamburg opened. In the late 1580s, Sephardi Jews who had fled Portugal. They built their own community in Hamburg. Official lists in 1610 show that approximately 100 Jewish families living in the city. There were some problems for the immigrant families, including the fact that they were not allowed to practice their faith. That changed in 1660, when the first synagogue was built.

The Northern War plague hit Hamburg in the summer of 1712. As the deaths began to hit nearby towns, the city restricted travel, a fact which the Danish king used to surround the city with his troops. He then commandeered Hamburg's vessels and demanded money for their return. Less than three weeks later, the plague was carried in by a prostitute from Hamburg's Gerkenshof Lane. Of the first 53 people who were exposed, all on the Lane, 35 became ill and 18 died. The lane was blocked and its residents quarantined, but the plague escaped, and it didn't dissipate until Christmas time.

As Hamburg was recovering from the epidemic, the Swedish Army marched through the city and burned down Altoona, the neighboring town which would one day be part of Hamburg. One week later, the Russian Army, led by Peter the Great, entered Hamburg. Peter tarried in the city while his troops plundered the surrounding area. In August 1713, the plague struck Hamburg again, this time more harshly than the last one.In March of 1714. approximately 10,000 people had died of the disease.

Today, Hamburg has the largest warehouse district in the world. It is called the Speicherstadt, which is German for "city of warehouses," and is located at the Port of Hamburg. The city also has more than 2,300 bridges, more than the bridges of Amsterdam, Venice, and London combined. In fact, it has more bridges than any other city in the world.



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